By Olasunkanmi Akoni
…displaces illegal immigrants, criminals under bridges
The Joint Task Force, comprising the state security agencies and the military, led by the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Umar Manko, last Monday swooped on Apapa and its environs, removing over 60 trucks and other articulated vehicles, parked indiscriminately around the area, following the expiration of a 72-hour ultimatum issued by the state government to remove them.
Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, had sometime last week, after leading a delegation on a three-day inspection tour of the area, directed the Ministry of Transportation to issue a four-day ultimatum to owners of trucks and other vehicles parked along the expressway to vacate or have their vehicles impounded.
In a manner similar to the Oshodi operation, the exercise began around 12.00 midnight with the Commissioner leading task force officials, military officers and officials of the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA and the Kick Against Indiscipline, KAI, officers and other security agencies to dislodge the truckers.
For over five years, tanker and trailer drivers had taken over the expressway and converted same to a parking lot, leaving a single lane to motorists to ply resulting, in most cases, to severe traffic gridlock in the area.
Before now, motorists plying the route end up spending several hours between Berger Yard, Marine Bridge and Wharf for a journey that should last for about 15 minutes. Before now, everyone, apart from motorists, preferred to steer clear of the Apapa area owing to the chaotic traffic situation but today the story has changed for the better.
The state government had earlier lamented the environmental nuisances caused on Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, such as repairing of vehicles on the roads, excreting in the drainage and on the roads, blocking of the drainage system with pure water sachets and selling of servicing oil right in the drainage system, amongst others.
The evacuation exercise, which lasted for over 13 hours, commenced at 12 midnight from Tincan to Creek road, Liverpool and Marine Beach and environs. As a result of the cleaning enforcement, the usual traffic gridlock often experienced disappeared with motorists driving unhindered to their destinations. At Marine Beach Bridge, over 10 trucks were impounded.
Also during the exercise, different kinds of guns, axes, cutlasses and other dangerous weapons under the Ijora-Marine Bridge were recovered by the Joint Task Force. Several foreign nationals, believed to be illegal immigrants from neighbouring countries, such as Chad, Niger were also displaced from the shanties.
However, following the discovery of structural defect on the portion of the bridge, the state government has called on the Federal Government to direct relevant authorities to carry-out an immediate structural integrity test on the Ijora-Marine Bridge in order to prevent imminent collapse as well as likely loss of lives and property.
The state Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, said the weapons were recovered by the Joint Task Force comprising of federal security and state agencies without any arrest.
Bello made the remarks during the inspection tour and unveiling of the “Regeneration Programme of Apapa Area”.
According to him, the recovered weapons would be handed over to the relevant authorities for further investigation and action.
He explained that the ongoing clearing exercise was part of measures by the state government to ensure security of life and property in the area, which used to be a den for criminals and other undesirable elements.
Bello, who said that the ongoing clearing exercise would last for about three weeks, assured residents that the state government would ensure sustenance on the reclamation of the area like that of Oshodi.
He decried the state of insecurity posed by indiscriminate parking of articulated vehicles and erection of illegal structures and shanties before they were respectively unlocked and demolished.
Bello, who listed the arms and weapon recovered to include different types of guns, daggers, axes and cutlasses, among others, which, he said, were used to terrorise innocent residents, expressed displeasure at the high level of environmental degradation and nuisance those living under the bridge illegally had caused in the area.
“The occupants are mostly illegal immigrants who are from Nigeria’s neighbouring countries such as Chad and Niger, among others.
He added that a good number of businesses “have closed down in this axis purely because of the situation of Apapa. With this, no investors will be interested to come to the country.
“This has become a hideout for miscreants and criminals. During demolition of shanties and illegal structures, dangerous weapon and arms were recovered. I do not have details of the recovered arms and weapons yet”.
Bello said the state programme of action for Apapa Central Business District would bring about regeneration and transformation of the area, including landscaping and beautification projects.
Meanwhile, during the inspection of the area, the delegation which included the state Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Kayode Opeifa, discovered a badly distressed portion under the bridge, believed to have been degraded by the displaced illegal occupants.
He assured that traffic gridlocks and unauthorised parking by drivers of tankers, trailers and trucks would become history, saying the state “is working with the Federal Government to ensure unhindered traffic flow in Apapa and its environs”.
The delegation also discovered huge illegal dumpsites along the rail-line of the Nigeria Railway Corporation by the Headquarters of Western Naval Command, Dockyard Street.
According to the Chairman of the Task Force, Superintendent Bayo Sulaimon: “This action was based on the ultimatum given by Governor Fashola that all vehicles parked indiscriminately, shanties constructed under the bridge should be removed. So after the expiration of the date, we moved in to restore sanity to the area.
“This effort is to make this place look the way it was 20 years ago. Apart from the environmental benefit, there will be safety of life and property within this area”.
Sulaimon added: “There was arrest at the early hours of the day when some occupiers of the shanties attacked our men during the evacuation of the vehicles and the demolition of illegal structures. We had no option than to arrest the men as they intend to halt the exercise.
“We made a lot of vehicular arrest and they have all been parked at LASTMA Yard, Oshodi. We met them right on the road flouting the law of the state. We know where we are going and we are getting there”.